Thursday, December 25, 2008

How I Spent Christmas Day

We leave on the cruise on Saturday and Mark and Julia arrive on Jan. 4th. So what was I to do on Christmas my block of the month quilt top together. I started this quilt last January. Every month we would meet at the local quilt shop and get the pattern and fabric for the next block. Twelve months later I had fourteen blocks; okay I made two extra. The middle part I made a few weeks ago. Now I have to do the batting and backing and then the quilting. It's pretty colorful so I'm not sure where it will end up in the house. As always a work in progress; sort of like me.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Mark and Julia made it safely from Kuala Lumpur to Chicago where her family lives. They had 39 hours of travel with a stop in Hong Kong and Los Angeles; only one delay and that was for just two hours in Los Angeles. Going from two degrees above the Equator to Chicago weather was a bit of a shock. Julia's mom met them inside the airport terminal with lots of warm clothes. Mark says they are staying inside as much as possible.

Yesterday Kerry drove their car down to the Concord BART station where we met his dad. I followed in Kerry's car with Harleen. His dad took the car to the city so they will have it to drive to our house on Jan. 4th. Being in the Bay Area reminded both of us why we left; the congestion and stress is way too much.

We are not doing much celebrating; our celebration will begin when the ship leaves the San Diego harbor on Saturday. Today Harleen's puppy sitter is coming to pick her up. They will keep her until Jan. 4th. There is lots of snow at there house in western Nevada so she will get to experience something new. As a last reminder of her chewing skills, she at the top off one of her toys. Hopefully they were small pieces that will pass through her. Gosh, you'd think we didn't feed her.

I signed up for a pedometer program with my health care provider. It came two days ago. My asthma is better so I think I can start taking longer walks and maybe even parking a long ways from where I'm going to shop. That's a great way to add steps.

Dinner tonight is in the crock pot. I cleaned out the vegetable bins. The soup has leeks, cauliflower and mushrooms. I added some home made chicken broth and will add pieces of leftover chicken later in the cooking process. It's rainy and cold so it will make a good dinner.

Glad so many bloggers are providing photos and details of the immense amount of snow falling in their parts of the world. The photos are beautiful; I'm glad I don't have to shovel any of that white stuff.

I hope all of you will have a wonderful holiday regardless of how you celebrate it. Don't know if I will get a chance to post during the cruise. So Happy New Year too.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Need For Jars

One of you wonderful bloggers mentioned that you could freeze sauces in Ziploc bags. Somewhere in my brain that bit of information stuck. So currently the marinara sauce is in bags, laying flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer. I remembered the cookie sheet part too. Once they are frozen you just remove the cookie sheet and the bags lay flat. Thank you whichever blogger posted this.

It's Raining; I'm Cooking

The dog is taking an early morning nap and the cats are both asleep somewhere in the house. It's one of those cold, wet, gray days that I love. It's perfect for staying indoors and making delicious dishes. We have friends coming for dinner this evening so I have another reason to cook all day.

Actually the cooking started yesterday when I made another batch of marinara sauce. A local farm continues to grow tomatoes under a hoop house. Don't know how long this will last but while it does I'll make marinara sauce. These little beauties got cut up and put in my crock pot along with onions, garlic, oregano, basil, olive oil and red wine. After 12 hours in the crock pot the sauce was the perfect consistency to puree in the Cuisinart and then put in jars for freezing. Only thing is I don't have any jars available at the moment. Luckily it's cold outside. I poured the whole mixture into a pot, put a lid on it and placed it outside the front door. I'll get jars later today.

I needed the crock pot because I'm making refried beans from scratch. Never done that before. Our dinner guests are really good friends; the kind that allow you to try new things on them. The other new thing is goat. Yes, goat. I bought it from farmer Dan who also supplied our 10-pound chicken. I found a Cuban recipe for goat that includes lots of spices, tomatillos and tomatoes. I diced the goat meat (it was a de-boned leg of goat) and let it marinate over night. We are also having Mexican rice. I'm hoping Kerry will make some Margaritas; they would go well with the dinner or maybe Mexican beer.

A week from today we will be at sea on the Holland-America ship Oosterdam for a seven day cruise of the Mexican Riviera (Mazatlan, Puerta Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas). It's 83 today in Mazatlan; it will be great to have a few days of warmth. There will be nine of us on the cruise. Instead of going to Washington to be with Kerry's family (it's 8 F. there) we decided to all cruise together for a late Christmas celebration and a wonderful at-sea New Year's celebration.

Well, I still have to get some meat off the chicken legs so I'd better get going. I'll let you know how the goat turns out.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Found Not Posted Item: Tomatillos And Goat

First of all I have to make a Locavore's confession; tomatillos are not in season where I live. I missed them by a few weeks. But...I want to make this recipe for a Sunday dinner with our friends Susan and Einar. I know that in the Locavore world that is not acceptable but...well I'm doing it anyway. There is no Locavore confessional. If there was, I would not go there. Recovering Catholics don't do confession.

So the goat recipe calls for all kinds of spices, tomatillos and tomatoes. Ultimately the meat and sauce get folded into a warm flour tortilla which is smothered with warm salsa. I've never had goat but our guests and Kerry are ready to try it.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On My Design Wall

This is the very large fusible applique on which I've been working for the past two weeks. It will be the center of a quilt. The blocks that go around it are nearly done. I'll probably put the whole thing together after the new year. Please click on the photo to see the flowers more clearly. The folded fabric flowers are supposed to be tulips or budding tulips. I took a class from Rami Kim a few years ago and learned all kinds of things about Korean chop key which is sort of paper origami using fabric.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Eating Locally

Here's our ten pound pasture-raised local chicken before the roasting and after. I had to use my turkey roasting pan because the other one was too small. I filled the cavity with sliced apples from our apple trees and sliced lemons from the farmer's market. The vegetables around it all came from local farms: leeks, potatoes, carrots and Tokyo turnips (much tastier than regular turnips). I roasted it for about 70 minutes at 425 degrees. Olive oil, salt and pepper made the skin delicious. It was yummy. We have enough left for all of you to come for dinner tonight. Kerry stripped the carcass so today I'm going to make stock. It's cold and rainy outside so a nice chicken casserole would be good to warm our insides for dinner.
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Aren't They Cute

The sleeping together (see Harleen's paw over Nora's leg) came about after Harleen finally stopped throwing up yesterday. When I wasn't watching, she ate some of the stuffing from her giraffe. He's gone. She threw up for several hours. She finally had nothing left in her stomach, so settled in her crate. Not long after that Nora joined her. Nora cleaned her for a while, and then the two settled down. Today, of course, Harleen is bounding around like yesterday never happened. Nora is staying clear of the bounding puppy.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eating Locally: A Pasture-Raised Chicken

This puppy weighs in at ten pounds. I put the soda can next to it so you'd have some idea of its size. I've bought turkeys that were smaller than this.

My search for locally-raised chicken has taken many twists and turns. Through a friend I learned of a farmer who occasionally has extra chickens for sale. I approached him at the farmer's market on Saturday morning. He'd heard I was looking for a pasture-raised chicken. He said he had one for me, but I had to come to his farm the next day (Sunday) to pick it up. I did; it's now thawing on my kitchen counter. A ten pound chicken for $15. I call that a bargain. We will get at least three meals out of it and then chicken stock and who knows what else. At first I thought I would roast it for dinner tonight but then realized that it would not thaw out until tomorrow morning. So we are having pasta with homemade marinara sauce and a salad.

Today I'm a very happy Locavore.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Telephone Update: Smirk, Smirk

Got a call last night from a survey firm. I love answering surveys so I agreed. About 30 seconds into the call I realized it was a research firm hired by AT&T to find out why I left that company and switched to Vonnage. My favorite question: What can AT&T do to get you to return as a customer? At first I was going to say "nothing." But then a little light bulb went on and I said, "I'd like the CEO of AT&T to come to my house and personally apologizing for the high cost of his phone service." There was a long silence on the other end. Did you get that, I asked. Oh yeah, she replied. Well so far no sign of the man. I should look him up so I'll recognize the dude when he arrives. Like that is going to happen in my lifetime. It was sort of fun.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cream of Mushroom Soup

My mother used to buy this soup by the case, always the Campbel label. When I got married I bought a case and then carted it around with me as I moved from place to place. I finally threw it away. Until recently Campbells soup didn't really understand that some people are allergic to MSG. It was in all of their soups. I hear that they are changing that, but too late for me to be their customer.

I made my own today; it was relatively easy. It's just one more step on our journey to clean, local, organic food. I got the idea when a fellow blogger mentioned that she had just made her third batch of cream of mushroom soup. The light bulb went on, I found a recipe I liked and mushrooms grown in a nearby community. Nothing fancy about the mushrooms; just like the ones in the picture. But boy does the soup ever taste good. I used leeks so the onion taste is a bit milder. I filled two pint jars that are now in my refrigerator.

I also started marinara sauce in my slow cooker. A local produce market sells from the owner's farm so you always know if you are getting their stuff or someone else's. They are still producing delicious tomatoes thanks to the hoop houses they use to protect them from frost. I cut up two pounds of tomatoes, added leeks, oregano, basil, and red wine. It's slowly cooking its way to sauce. The house smells great.

Meanwhile, I have pork ribs slow cooking in the oven. That's our dinner tonight plus roasted cauliflower. The ribs came from our local Coffee Pot Ranch. Tomorrow I'm making broccoli cheese soup to put in jars so we have soup for lunch or dinner on these cold days. I know that cold is a relative term when you live in northern California, but it was only 39 degrees when we got up this morning. Brrr.

So here we are 18 months after listening to Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma." I love "foraging" for food and making wonderful simple dishes with locally grown in-season food. Foraging means that I have to go to several places to get what I need for us to have a healthy diet. I like to forage. It's amazing how little time I spend in the mainstream grocery stores.
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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Harleen Says Happy Holidays

Just got this from the two women who took pictures at yesterday's party. If I hadn't already fallen in love with her, I would now. Click on it to make it larger.
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Saturday, December 06, 2008

And More From the Puppy Christmas Party

Some of the dogs came with their own holiday decorations. Harleen had her Christmas picture taken wearing a Santa hat. She looked really cute but not really happy to be where she was. By that time she was very tired having been in puppy kindergarten for an hour before the party. She slept all the way home and is still asleep in her crate in the house. Several recipients of CCI dogs were there as well; two were in wheel chairs and one had a hearing dog. Hearing dogs have orange leashes. I didn't know that. We played games and then had the dogs pick out toys from Santa. People wrapped the presents they bought (for a dog). We didn't do that so our stuffed animal gift was immediately taken by one of the service dogs. Harleen, true to form, picked a package with dog biscuits in it. That's Harleen in the bottom picture with Kerry (in the red fleece vest) during kindergarten. I just hope she doesn't have to repeat it again. It might give her a complex. It was a lot of fun; Kerry and I came home and napped too. We got a wrong number phone call six times. So I finally gave up and got up. That's why I'm typing now. He's sound asleep.

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Puppies and Puppy Raisers Everywhere

Every where you looked at the Christmas party there were dogs of all sizes and colors. The cape for the littlest pup is still too big. Blogger will only let me post this many pictures so I will continue on the next post. The little kids belong to our trainer Carly.
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Friday, December 05, 2008

This 'n That

So I finally got my sister's photo from my phone to my blog. Don't ask why it took so long. Chalk it up to my stupidity. Those pictured are from left to right: my nephew Adam, whom I didn't recognize because he has that hat pulled down low over his face, my sister's sainted husband Neil with grandbaby Max, and my other nephew, Michael, who also happens to be Max's dad. The caption was "waiting for the turkey." Michael's wife Minna was in the kitchen with the turkey and all the other stuff. This is an amazing accomplishment for my sister. It brought tears to my eyes.

Okay, now for the rest of this 'n that.

1. We have switched our phone service to Vonnage. I got so tired of AT&T promising to lower my bills and then doing just that for one month. We don't talk on the phone very much because we e-mail everything. So I'd finally had it. We switched, have the same phone number and all the same services for just (drumroll) $14.95 a month.

2. Tomorrow is the puppy kindergarten Christmas party. We have to bring a dish (people food) for the potluck and a gift for the dogs. If we bring a gift then Harleen gets one. Do I want my puppy to be traumatized by her first (and probably last) Christmas with us? I don't think so. This means we are going to the deli at Raley's to get an appetizer and then to Petsmart for a toy. The party hostess said the dogs could wear antlers or Santa hats. I have trouble imaging Harleen in any of those. I see her head shaking and her paws trying to remove the offending article of clothing.

3. I'm working on the biggest applique I've ever done. Luckily it's not needle-turn but done with fusible stuff. I'll post it when it's done. It will be the center of a "block of the month" quilt that I am doing.

4. Not sure there is a four. Or at least I can't remember it right now. As soon as I hit "publish" I will think of it.

Pictures to follow from the puppy kindergarten Christmas party.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

She (Harleen) Is Growing And My Sister Is Doing Well

Took Harleen to the vet today to weigh her so we could get the correct Heartworm dosage. She weighed in at 41.4 pounds. A month ago she weighed 27 pounds. And she's not fat, just growing taller and longer by the minute.

An update on my sister; if I could get the photo transferred from my phone to my e-mail I might have something other than words for you. But I can't make it work. On Thanksgiving Day she sent a photo of her husband, Max, her grandson, her son and another person sitting on the sofa waiting for the turkey to be done. Now this may not seem like much to many of you but, she was in her son's home (that meant she felt good enough to go out) and taking a picture which she sent to me. She is slowly but surely piecing herself back together again. It has taken a lot more patience than she thought it would, but she is making progress. She's even talking about a big family get together in Minnesota next year. We will be there.

For newcomers to my blog, here's the short version on my sister. She had a simple surgery on Feb. 6, 2008 to remove a cancerous nodule in her colon, stitches didn't hold, colon leaked fecal matter into her body cavity, kidneys and lungs shut down, in the ICU for 8 weeks and in the hospital and rehab facilities for a total of 8 months. That's why I'm so happy that she sent me a picture on Thanksgiving.

Out of all of this I did learn something important, ICU nurses are the most amazing health care workers. She had one nurse just for her 24/7. They did a phenomenal job of caring for her. After 8 weeks in ICU where she was paralyzed and in a drug-induced coma, she did not have a single bed sore. That is amazing.

So for all of you out there who prayed for her, I want to thank you once again. Your prayers, energy, Reiki, etc. all worked. She is going to be just fine.